First Test Match

NEW ZEALAND v INDIA 1980-81

A patient, unbeaten 137 in five hours forty-nine minutes by Howarth in the first innings proved to be the decisive factor in a match in which bowlers had the larger say. Their dominance was due as much to inept batting as to the inconsistency of a new pitch at the renovated Basin Reserve. With a first innings of 375, which took them almost a day and a half to compile, New Zealand looked safe from defeat until collapsing for 100 in their second innings. However, India, 152 behind on the first innings, could not seize this chance, batting as poorly when they went in again.

Notwithstanding the moderate batting, the match was absorbing. With the new pitch an unknown quantity, winning the toss and batting first was a major advantage to New Zealand, who built up a sound position of 241 for four on the first day. Although there was movement to be obtained from a green pitch. India struck only once in each of the first two sessions; the third wicket, that of the left-handed Reid, fell midway between tea and the close. Kapil Dev bowled erratically at first, and when he found his aim he was unlucky. Yograj Singh, playing in his maiden Test, initially posed some threat but fell away after being hit in the face while fielding in the deep. The main bowling honours, on the second day, went to the nineteen-year-old left-arm spinner, Ravi Shastri, who had arrived to reinforce the side only on the eve of the match. He bowled economically to take three for 54, the last two wickets with consecutive balls.

Although Hadlee was off colour, New Zealand made deep inroads into the Indian batting before the end of the second day, Cairns swinging the ball disconcertingly late. With the score at 70 for one, he removed Gavaskar and Viswanath in the same over, and fifty minutes later had Vengsarkar lbw playing no stroke. Next day, Troup helped Cairns press home the advantage, despite a valuable innings of 64 in almost two hours by Patil and resistance for a similar length of time from Kirti Azad, another playing in his first Test.

New Zealand's second innings lasted two minutes under three and a half hours, with only Edgar and wicket-keeper Smith reaching double figures. The first seven wickets were all claimed by the seam bowlers, Kapil Dev, who took four of them, luring three batsmen into playing fatal hooks. Only Hadlee was defeated by a quirk of the pitch. Shastri mopped up the tail by taking three wickets in the same over, his match figures in his maiden Test being six for 63.

India, who had two full days to get 253 runs, were soon floundering. By lunch they were 75 for four, and the only contribution of substance thereafter was 42 from Patil, made in a manner more pertinent to a run-chase than a rescue operation. Character entered the Indian batting too late, when eight wickets had gone down for 136. Binny, who remained unbeaten with 26, batted for 107 minutes, 72 of them in company with the young Shastri, who played sensibly and needed no shielding. Hadlee atoned for his lacklustre performance in the first innings by taking four for 65. Snedden, on his Test d├ębut, also bowled effectively. Howarth and Patil were named as Man of the Match for their respective countries.

© John Wisden & Co